Healthcare Directives – Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney

It is becoming increasingly more important to establish health care directives today. If you want to ensure that your healthcare decisions are carried out if you can not speak for yourself, then you need to have both the healthcare power of attorney and living will drawn up. The advances in medical care combined with a very litigious-aware medical community, could interfere with your personal desires if they are not made clear and someone is not overseeing your care.

Even if you are young and in excellent health, a qualified attorney needs to prepare these documents in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, accidents happen all the time and the very last thing a family needs when in crisis is to not be able to care for a loved one as they wish.

Facts about Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills

The healthcare power of attorney appoints a person you choose, usually a trusted family member or very close friend, to speak and act on your behalf if you become incapacitated and unable express your wishes. The biggest difference between a healthcare power of attorney and a living will is that the living will is activated only when you become either permanently unconscious or another condition as defined by state law.

The healthcare power of attorney is designed to go further. If you are only temporarily unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate, or in a permanent vegetative state, but not terminally ill, then your agent can act on your behalf. If you only have a living will in place, your agent is unable to make decisions for you. You need a healthcare power of attorney for these situations.

When drafting this document, your lawyer will ask you questions about whom you are choosing as your agent to make sure that they will be able and willing to act on your behalf. You need to have a very frank and serious discussion with the person you are trusting with this obligation before meeting with a lawyer to draft the document.

The living will, as its name implies, will allow your agent to make decisions that affect your end-of-life situations. Your doctor will make the determination, in writing, that you are permanently unconscious, or in another condition as defined by state law. At that point, your living will is activated and your agent takes over making decisions on your behalf based on what is written in the will. If you are incapacitated in this manner without a living will, the hospital makes the decisions for you, based on policy and law, but policy and law may not aligned with your wishes. The combination of healthcare power of attorney and living will covers all contingencies.

If you have a major life event such as: moving out of-state, marriage, divorce, etc., you need to update your documents. State law can differ in regards to living wills, so you need to be sure your will and power of attorney is recognized by, and does not contradict state law. Please contact our offices with any questions on this important issue.


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